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DETROIT – Mike Babcock would like to finally see a dress rehearsal out of his team in one of the final two exhibition games of the preseason the weekend. And the Red Wings’ coach may just get it Friday with the return of forward Daniel Alfredsson.
Alfredsson, who has missed the last four games with a sore groin, is expected to join his new linemates – center Stephen Weiss and forward Johan Franzen – when the Wings host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena.
“It's pretty good,” Alfredsson said. “I felt pretty good after the practice the other day (Tuesday) but wasn't really as good the next day as I was hoping, so precautionary.”
Weiss’s line is expected to give the Wings more scoring punch this season, playing behind the team’s top trio of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader. Unfortunately, the second line hasn’t played a single game in the preseason together. Alfredsson and Weiss played together last week in Chicago, however, Franzen missed that game with a sore hip flexor.
The linemates are excited to finally get some ice time together and begin building a chemistry.
“It is what it is this time of the year, guys go down with stuff and they work other guys into the lineup and kind of work with what you’ve got,” Weiss said. “For me it’s been kind of tough cause I’ve had new guys every night and working with that has been a bit of a challenge, but hopefully (tonight) we can that line together and try to at least get one game in before we get going for real here.”
For Franzen, the final preseason games will give him a chance to work out the kinks before the games become more meaningful next week.
“Me personally, I'd probably rather have a bad one, preseason, than a good one,” he said. “You don't want to go into the season and feel like things are going to go easy. I'd rather come in and feel it's real uphill. That's a better mindset to have coming into the preseason. So I don't mind a rough start in the preseason.”
With the exception of an 8-2 win at Boston last Thursday, the Red Wings haven’t had much to celebrate in the preseason. They’ve posted a 1-4-0 record while being outscored 14-8 in the other five games. But that doesn’t faze the Mule.
“Probably guys aren't focusing on it (scoring),” he said. “Probably more focused on being where we should be on the ice and usually it's when you think too much and guys try to be in the right spot instead of just playing.”
The Red Wings practiced at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday, however, Danny DeKeyser (knee) did not skate. Forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar skated in gray jersey, which means they will not play tonight, as did center Darren Helm, who is still recovering from a groin and lower back injury.
Here are the line combinations and defensive pairings used by the Red Wings at Friday’s morning skate:
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson
Daniel Cleary - Joakim Andersson - Todd Bertuzzi
Tomas Jurco - Luke Glendening - Mikael Samuelsson